Court ruling stops UC Berkeley from building student housing at People's Park

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Monday, February 27, 2023
Court ruling stops UC Berkeley from building housing at People's Park
An appeals court ruled that UC Berkeley may not move forward with plans to build student housing at People's Park.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Last Summer, protesters took on police in an attempt to stop construction at People's Park in Berkeley. A new appeals court ruling late Friday goes even further.

The court ruled that the University of California at Berkeley may not move forward with plans to build student housing on People's Park until it addresses problems within the project's environmental impact report.

The ruling says UC Berkeley "failed to assess potential noise impacts from loud student parties in residential neighborhoods near the campus, a longstanding problem..."

"The courts are micromanaging. It's none of the courts' business where UC Berkeley decides to build housing on its land," said California State Senator Scott Wiener.

RELATED: UC Berkeley calls off construction at People's Park after protesters, police clash; 7 arrested

Seven arrests were made and two officers were injured during a protest at UC Berkeley's People's Park over a student housing project.

Senator Wiener says the ruling amounts to "NIMBYism" -- or "not in my back yard."

According to Wiener, the court is arguing that the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, requires looking at what "kind" of people are going to move in. In this case, students, who are known to be loud. Wiener says that type of stereotyping is "dangerous."

"You can imagine the stereotyping of low income people and people of color. That's not how we do things in California," Wiener said. "The court is turning what is not an environmental issue into basically a fake environmental issue."

In a statement to ABC7 News, UC Berkeley says they will appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court -- adding that this new decision "bestows new privileges and power to the privileged and powerful by arming NIMBY neighbors with additional weapons to obstruct the development of all new urban housing."

MORE: Honoring the Ohlone or housing? The fight to preserve the sacred West Berkeley Shellmound

"Basically anyone who has the money to hire lawyer can use CEQA to try to kill anything they don't like. Even if it is super pro-environmental," Wiener said.

The new ruling overturns a July 2022 ruling that allows the university to begin construction on housing for 1,100 students and 125 lower-income and unhoused residents.

The appeals court also finds that UC officials did not sufficiently explore alternative student housing sites.

"The fact that it was appealed is kind of positive," said Berkeley resident Tomie Ortiz.

MORE: Here's why 48,000 University of California academic workers go on strike

Ortiz says the student housing shortage isn't just about availability, but also about affordability -- something she says is evident in the number of unhoused people who currently live at People's Park.

"There is a housing shortage. But that housing shortage is usually because it is unavailable to people of a certain kind of income," Ortiz said. "And so, even if it is low income housing, the system, like the bureaucracy, still allows for people to not be able to go into those places. So, the truth is that, even if it displaces them, it's not a win for us."

The lawyer and plaintiffs in this case were not able for comment.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live